Recognizing Anger

Non Physical Signs

* Controlling decisions
* Isolating from friends, school, family
* Having extreme standards
* Blaming, insulting, name calling, threatening,
questioning or checking up

Violent- No Contact

* Reckless driving
* Throwing things, punching things, destroying objects
* Cruelty to animals or children

Violent Contact:

* Holding down, pushing, shoving, twisting arms,
grabbing, etc.
* Slapping, spanking, punching, burning
* Choking, banging head, hair pulling
* Using weapons
* Forced sex

Megan’s Story

In walks Megan, age 17, into my office. Megan is brought to therapy by her parents. Recently, Megan’s best friend died in a car accident. Her friend happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Megan’s parents have informed me that Megan has been having a really hard time showing her sadness and instead has been relying on her anger.

According to Megan’s parents, Megan has been showing a lot of anger, both at home and at school. Megan started off by isolating from her friends. She then began to give attitude to her friends, teachers, and parents. Megan’s parents thought that this was just a phase and that she would get out of it. However, Megan instead began shoving her peers at school and slapping her younger brother. She also began to blame her personal problems on everyone around her. Megan’s parents realized that they needed help on how to assist their daughter through his difficult time, while also learning how to deal with her anger.

Helping Megan with her anger

Some teens deny feelings of anger until they explode or turn anger against themselves. With Megan, it was important for me to first assess any risk of safety (such as having suicidal thoughts herself or having thoughts of hurting someone else). Once safety was established with Megan, I helped her in processing her anger. I personally believe anger is good, IF it is dealt with properly. Shoving people at school and slapping her brother is not an appropriate way for Megan to deal with her anger because she is placing others in danger. Instead, I assisted Megan in coming up with coping strategies that could allow her to express her anger in a healthy way, such as writing her feelings down in a journal. I also encouraged Megan’s parents to enroll Megan in a boxing class at her gym, as a way to release the anger pent up in her body.

Once Megan was able to use her coping strategies effectively, I assisted her in processing the death of her best friend, which was at the root of her anger. Part of Megan’s anger was also at her friend for leaving her. Megan needed to blame others for the injustice that was done to her. When I assisted Megan in facing her feelings, what began to show up in therapy with Megan was her sadness. Behind all that anger, Megan was holding a lot of sadness for her best friend’s death. I helped Megan talk about her memories of her best friend, remembering all the times that they had spent together, in a tangible and creative way. Megan decided to create a little ceremony for her friend, which included pictures, a necklace, and a goodbye letter. Megan also processed her feelings regarding the changes that have come about since her friend’s death, such as the changes in her weekend plans, changes in studying habits (since they used to study together every day after school), etc. I helped Megan learn new ways to deal with these changes.

While helping Megan in processing her anger and sadness over her friend’s death, I also assisted Megan’s parents in dealing with Megan’s anger. For instance, I assisted her parents in coming up with their own relaxation techniques, as a means to help themselves calm down when Megan would give them attitude. I also provided psycho-education on the changes that could come about when someone looses a loved one, as Megan did. This information helped Megan’s parents understand where she was coming from and how to assist her better during this difficult time.

Author's Bio: 

I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in Pasadena, CA. I work with children, teens, and adults to help improve interpersonal relationships. I do individual, family, and group therapy. Please visit my website for more info.